Healthcare

Healthcare Workers Burnout: Signs, Causes, and Remedies

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April 4, 2022

That is why physicians and other clinicians are at a very high risk of burnout. It has always been a problem, but the pandemic has turned it into a crisis. 

Burnout is an emotional, mental and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged stress in the workplace. A recent study showed that 55% of healthcare workers reported feelings of burnout. 

The rising prevalence of healthcare has raised concerns on how it affects patient safety, access to care, and quality of care. In truth, burned-out physicians tend to resign, which will reduce patient access to quality care. 

Therefore, you should give no trivial thoughts about combating healthcare worker burnout within your practice. 

What is Healthcare Worker Burnout?

Healthcare worker burnout refers to the apathy and exhaustion that healthcare workers face over a long period. Healthcare worker burnout is a dangerous condition that might cause harm to both the providers and their patients. 

Stress and burnout are similar in many ways. But the significant difference between both is that while stress is situational or temporary, burnout is a more permanent condition that may not change. 

If burnout isn't adequately addressed with good self-care, it can cause severe depression and total emotional breakdown. But what are the signs of healthcare worker burnout? 

Signs of Healthcare Worker Burnout

WHO defines burnout into three dimensions; 

  • Feelings of exhaustion and depletion.
  • Increased professional inefficiency and
  • Feelings of negativity or cynicism towards one's job and mental distance

While healthcare worker burnout may vary from one worker to another, the general signs of burnout in healthcare workers may include:

  • Becoming short-tempered. 
  • Crying easily.
  • Dreading the workplace.
  • Having sleeping difficulties.
  • Detachment from patients.
  • Poor memory.
  • Lack of interest or drive.
  • Anxiety.
  • Fatigue. 

What are the Causes of Healthcare Worker Burnout? 

Reducing burnout in healthcare workers is crucial for both providers and patients. This starts with identifying the leading causes. 

Here are some of the leading causes of healthcare worker burnout. 

Extended Hours of Sleep Deprivation

Healthcare workers often work longer hours over prolonged intervals to keep up with the huge workload and administrative tasks. Working long hours often leads to sleep deprivation. 

Typically, the recommended sleep time should span around 7 hours per night. Frequently sleeping for hours less than this is inadequate and can affect; mood, memory, and attention span. 

In recent research that assessed the sleep duration of American adults, analysis of the reports from 150,000 respondents showed that 45% of healthcare workers get inadequate sleep. 

Isn't it Ironic that the healthcare industry that requires excellent attention to detail faces a sleep-time shortage? 

In addition, light disrupts their biological rhythm when medical employees work multiple night shifts consecutively.

 Every person has a default sleep-wake cycle called circadian rhythm that matches the time of the day. Disruption of this circadian rhythm can accelerate mental exhaustion.

Heavy Workflow 

EHRs and other technological solutions exist to make administrative operations more efficient. However, many of those systems are complex to navigate due to their poor user interface (UI) causing, thereby making work even harder for the users.

Physicians spend as much time navigating this system as they spend with their patients. This situation is the leading cause of today's heavy workload on health workers. Poorly designed EHR contributes to patient burnout rate in no small way. 

Financial Stress and Student Debt

Typically, over 75% of graduates are in debt when just starting their careers. Medical school is expensive as medical students face an average debt of $192,000. This financial burden puts new physicians and health care workers under pressure. 

They might put themselves under higher working pressure to pay back in time. However, the more they work, the more stressed they become. Overworking over a long period eventually leads to burnout. 

According to Medscape research, 29% of physicians attribute insufficient compensation to their burnout condition. They work more and spend less because they are servicing loans. Ultimately, burnout is inevitable. 

Remedies to Healthcare Worker Burnout 

Healthcare workers should be sensitive to their mental health even as they care for their patients. Sometimes, they pay so much attention to patient care without caring about their emotional state. 

Here are some tips you can use to remedy burnout as a healthcare worker;

Seek Help

Take out time to seek help. When burnt out, it can be challenging to bring yourself back to your ideal emotional state. Therefore, it is necessary to seek assistance from colleagues and sometimes a therapist. 

Know Your Limits 

Sometimes, pressure and the desire to meet work-hour targets make you overwork yourself, leading to burnout. You often do overtime and frequently work multiple shifts will not make you any more productive, sharp, or engaged. 

Don't let burnout set in before you take a break. Take occasional rest and breaks to refuel and renew your mental health. 

Medical employers are also not left behind when combating healthcare worker burnout. When there is a collective effort by healthcare leaders and their employees, there can be progress and a reduction in healthcare worker burnout. 

Here are some roles you can play as a medical employer in combating healthcare worker burnout;

Allow Flexibility

Understand that your healthcare workers deal with a lot in their personal lives. Please help them by giving them a level of work-life flexibility. Offer them flexible or part-time work schedules (where applicable). 

Give Access to Emotional Support Resources 

Provide curated content like podcasts and articles for your staff on topics around mental health preservation. Constantly educate your staff on maintaining a healthy work-life balance and creating a healthy working environment where they can adequately practice what they learn.

Make Worker Wellness a Part of Your Culture

The best way to achieve this culture is to be proactive enough in finding out their concerns. Create a platform where your healthcare workers can freely air their concerns. Then prioritize addressing them. 

Summary

Healthcare workers experience burnout for a variety of reasons. Recognizing burnout's signs and causes is crucial to providing timely remediation.

Some ways to prevent or address burnout include modified work schedules, self-care, and peer support. 

Ultimately, it is vital that healthcare workers feel supported in their roles to continue to provide high-quality care to patients.

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